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SEX CLARK FIVE (Buy CDs by this artist)
Neita Grew Up Last Night EP7 (Records to Russia) 1987
Strum & Drum! (Records to Russia) 1987 (Beehive Rebellion) 1996
Battle of Sex Clark Five (Bloodmoney/Skyclad) 1989
Ketchup If You Can EP7 (Records to Russia) 1990
Antedium (Skyclad) 1993

The totally unique (not to mention hard-to-define and often downright weird) Sex Clark Five is a quartet from Huntsville, Alabama. The strangely intoxicating Strum & Drum! is a catchy mélange of rapidly strummed guitars, airy, Shoesy vocals (courtesy of guitarist/songwriter James Butler and bassist Joy Johnson) and songs (20 of 'em!) that typically clock in under two minutes. Often goofy ("If You See Her With Me Let Me Know"), sometimes straightforward ("Faith" — definitely not the George Michael tune) and always intriguing, Strum & Drum! is a near-classic first step. (In early 1996, Beehive Rebellion put Strum & Drum! on CD with fourteen bonus tracks, including the prior Neita Grew Up Last Night EP, as well as flexi-disc tracks and a previously unreleased cover of the Byrds' "Have You Seen Her Face."

Battle of Sex Clark Five is not quite as wonderful as the debut, mainly due to a paucity of memorable melodies. Butler's lyrics veer toward infuriating obtuseness or dull political preoccupations ("The Wermacht's Lament," "Sock Hopra"); the band often seems to be strumming and drumming aimlessly. Still, the giddy "I'm a Fool With You," the acoustic punk of "Accelerator" and the nutty, autobiographical "Ballad of Sex Clark Five" (sung by Johnson) are all stellar.

Antedium continues the SC5's slow slide, with few worthy tracks among the two dozen offered. The haunting "Old World Girl," the alluring "Cold and Gray," the garagey "Strum & Drum!" and the high-speed wackiness of "Knights of Carumba" are all fine, but some songs are simply dull ("Civil War" and the 23-second "Ketchup If You Can2," a different song from the noise-instrumental title track of the 1990 four-song red 7-inch, are prime offenders). The band does get extra points, though, for slyly appropriating the opening riff to "Helter Skelter" on "Curley Shuttle Reprise." Best song title honors: a tie between "I Got Use of My Legs" and "America Under the Mongol Yoke Prelude."

[John M. Borack]